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National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Constellation Program:
America's Fleet of Next-Generation Launch Vehicles
The Ares V Cargo Launch Vehicle

Planning and early design are under way for being developed by NASA’s Constellation
hardware, propulsion systems and associated Program to carry human explorers back to
technologies for NASA’s Ares V cargo launch the moon, and then onward to Mars and other
vehicle — the “heavy lifter” of America’s next- destinations in the solar system.
generation space fleet.
The Ares V effort includes multiple project
Ares V will serve as NASA’s primary vessel for element teams at NASA centers and contract
safe, reliable delivery of resources to space organizations around the nation, and is led
— from large-scale hardware and materials by the Exploration Launch Projects Office
for establishing a permanent moon base, to at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
food, fresh water and other staples needed to Huntsville, Ala. These teams rely on nearly a
extend a human presence beyond Earth orbit. half a century of NASA spaceflight experience
and aerospace technology advances. Together,
Under the goals of the Vision for Space they are developing new vehicle hardware
Exploration, Ares V is a vital part of the cost- and flight systems and maturing technologies
effective space transportation infrastructure evolved from powerful, reliable Apollo-era and
space shuttle propulsion elements.

Concept image of Ares V in Earth orbit. (NASA/MSFC)

The versatile, heavy-lifting Ares V is a two-stage,
vertically stacked launch system. The launch vehicle
can carry about 290,000 pounds to low Earth orbit and
144,000 pounds to the moon.

For its initial insertion into Earth orbit, the first stage Concept image of Ares V elements.
relies on two five-segment reusable solid rocket boost­ (NASA/MSFC)
ers. These are derived from the space shuttle solid
rocket boosters and are similar to the single booster that
serves as the first stage for the cargo vehicle’s sister
craft, the Ares I crew launch vehicle (see “Ares I” fact
sheet). This hardware commonality makes operations
more cost effective by using the same manufacturing
facilities for both the crew and cargo vehicles.

The twin reusable solid rocket boosters of the cargo

lifter’s first stage flank a single, liquid-fueled central
booster element, known as the core propulsion stage.
Derived from the Saturn V-class core, this central booster
tank delivers liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen fuel to five
RS-68 rocket engines — an upgraded version of those
currently used in the Delta IV, the largest of the Delta
rocket family developed in the 1990s by the U.S. Air Force
for its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program and
commercial launch applications. Together, these propul­
sion elements comprise the Ares V’s first stage.

An RS-68 engine undergoes hot-fire testing at NASA's Stennis Space

Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., during the engine’s developmental
phase. (Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne)
Atop the central booster element is an interstage Anchored atop the departure stage is a composite
cylinder, which includes booster separation motors shroud protecting the lunar surface access module,
and a newly designed forward adapter that mates the which includes the descent stage that will carry explor­
first stage with the second, or Earth Departure Stage. ers to the moon’s surface and the ascent stage that will
This unique upper stage, being designed at Marshall, return them to lunar orbit to rendezvous with the Orion
is propelled by a J-2X main engine fueled with liquid crew exploration vehicle for their return home.
oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The J-2X is an evolved
variation of two historic predecessors: the powerful J-2 During launch of an Ares V, the reusable solid rocket
upper-stage engine that propelled the Apollo-era Saturn boosters and core propulsion stage power the vehicle
1B and Saturn V rockets to the moon and the J-2S, a into low-Earth orbit. After separation from the spent core
simplified version of the J-2 developed and tested in the stage, the Earth Departure Stage J-2X engine takes
early 1970s but never flown. over, placing the vehicle in a circular orbit. The Orion,
carrying the astronauts, is delivered to space separately
by the Ares I launcher, then docks with the orbiting Earth
Departure Stage and its lunar module payload. Once
mated, the Earth Departure Stage fires its engine to
achieve “escape velocity,” the speed necessary to break
free of Earth’s gravity, and the lunar vessel begins its
journey to the moon.

The Earth Departure Stage is jettisoned after it puts the

mated crew and lunar modules on course for their lunar
destination. Once the four astronauts arrive in lunar orbit,
they transfer to the lunar module and descend to the
moon’s surface. The crew module remains in lunar orbit
until the astronauts depart from the moon in the lunar
vessel, rendezvous with the crew module in orbit and
return to Earth.

The cargo vehicle’s rockets can lift up heavy payloads,

such as equipment and hardware, to Earth orbit or trans-
lunar injection, a trajectory designed to intersect with the
moon. Such lift capabilities will enable NASA to carry a
variety of science and exploration payloads to space and,
in time, undertake crewed missions to Mars and beyond.

The first crewed lunar excursion is scheduled for launch

in the 2020 timeframe.

The Ares V effort and associated element project teams

are led by the Exploration Launch Projects Office at
Marshall, which reports to the Constellation Program
Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Constellation is a key program of NASA’s Exploration
Systems Mission Directorate in Washington.

ATK Thiokol of Brigham City, Utah, is the prime contrac­

tor of the reusable solid rocket boosters. Pratt & Whitney
Rocketdyne is the prime contractor for both the J-2X
upper stage engine and the RS-68 main engine.

Concept image of the J-2X engine. (NASA/MSFC)


Concept image of the Ares V earth departure stage in orbit, shown with
the Orion docked with the Lunar Surface Access Module. (NASA/MSFC)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

George C. Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville, AL 35812

FS-2006-07-84-MSFC Pub 8-40599